Rookwood Cemetery Station - All Saints Church Canberra

    A while ago I visited the All Saints Church in Canberra which was originally Cemetery Station No.1 at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney.  And finally, I have found time to put together a post about the trip!  This is mostly a picture post, I know it's been a while.

    If you want to see more photos you can do so via the blog FaceBook page, or the Flickr photo stream as I tend to post more photos to these places closer to when I take them.

    To see the photos in a bigger format (and read some of the writing on them) right click on the image and open the link in a new tab or window.  This will let you see it larger than if you simply left click the photo.

   I had intended to do a short summary of the pamphlet we got at the church, however I simply don't have the time.  It is a good little booklet, so make sure to pick it up if you visit the church, especially if you are into the historical aspects as it has information and photos that I had never seen before.

    A bit of background; Cemetery Station No.1 opened in 1867 in what was then Haslem's Creek Cemetery (now called Rookwood) and closed in 1948.   The building was bought for £100 and transfered to Canberra in 1957.  Finally it was blessed as an Anglican church in 1958 which it has remained since.

    To the right of the main door was a little information post for tourists, it was done by the 'Canberra Tracks' heritage organisation so most of the focus was on the rain history.  But it was informative and well done.  I took photos of each side as you can see below.
This side had a map of historical train lines in Canberra.
This side focused on key historical stations in and around Canberra.
This is the side of most interest to us, it was about the old
Rookwood station and how it became a church.

    As some have noted the building was inverted when it was rebuilt in Canberra, basically the stuff on the left was moved to the right, the back became the front, and so on.  For example, the bell tower was originally on the left.

The front of the church face on.
    I personally believe this was due to the now inverted nature and use of the building, at least conceptually.  By this I mean Cemetery Station was used to take bodies for burial, it was for funerals and the end of life.  Now however it was a church, which tend to be seen as beginnings or continuations of life (such as baptisms, weddings, etc).  On a conceptual level the building went from an end of life purpose to a beginning and continuation of life.

    Of course this is just a theory of mine which I have not looked into one way or another, maybe someone simply thought it would look cool.  But it does make sense when one thinks about social perceptions of these sort of things.

Looking back at the main entry.
The guttering is quite cool!

The main doors into the church.

    Originally the archway was the main entry into the building, as you can see in photos of Cemetery Station it is the archway which was attached to the bell tower.  However, as you know the building was inverted when it was rebuilt, so the angels and figures became the back wall.

    We bumped into one of the staff while they were cleaning and asked if we could go upstairs, which was apparently a standard question as she showed no surprise by the request.  In fact she was quite happy to let us up, and while we were up there she went and got some pamphlets.  She later told us how they get quite a few tourists, mostly related to rail heritage and people wanting to see the oldest building in Canberra.

Door up the bell tower to the second level.

Bottom sign reads:
Sign reads:
Try sleeping through this, heathens!
The organ upstairs.

View from the top level.

    On one hand I do think it is such a shame that this was removed from Rookwood, as now Rookwood and the church are separate and without each other.  There are no stations left within Rookwood, only foundations remain and paths were the train line would have run.  For Cemetery Station No.1 to be removed not only from Rookwood, but from Sydney is a loss of heritage for both Rookwood and Sydney.

    Yet at the same time this displacement adds a special element to both Rookwood and the church.  If it had stayed at Rookwood Cemetery Station No.1 might have become another in a list of abandoned or disused buildings within the cemetery.  Look at Regent Street Railway Station in Sydney CBD, it is really only visible from Central Station and from the street.  It is only open to the public on special occasions for a number of reasons (such as being on an active rail line).  Basically Regent Street Station does not hold much historical significance and is not available to the public.

    Because Cemetery Station No.1 left Rookwood it has gained extra importance, both historically and currently.  Due to being removed from Rookwood physically the link to its past, to Rookwood, must become an emotional one and done on a conscious level.  It does not have the luxury of assuming a link to Rookwood as it is in a completely separate city.  So instead to preserve the historical elements this link is vocalised and made more obvious.

    Yes, it is a great shame that Rookwood is without Cemetery Station No.1, but this most likely saved it being forgotten and lost within the past history of Rookwood.


More Information:

Wikipedia article on Cemetery Station No.1

All Saints Church Canberra official website

Wikipedia article on All Saints Church Canberra


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